All Open-World Games Need “Discovery Tour” Modes

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Assassin’s Creed: Origins is going to have a “Discovery Tour” mode that will strip out the story and combat and let players simply explore the game’s open world with some commentary from historians. People are already lauding this as an excellent use of all the historical research that goes into the Creed games. I think similar functionality should be expanded to virtually all open-world games.

It’s really just another step in the conversation surrounding “story mode” difficulty levels. I don’t see “discovery tour” as an actual difficulty mode though, but just another way to get use out of the art assets developers spend so much time and money putting into games. Maybe it’s not for everyone but it could offer some people yet another reason to buy a game.

In the past I’ve actually heard people ask why games like Assassin’s Creed II didn’t have modes where you could just explore Venice without worrying about combat. Apparently there are people who don’t play action games at all, but are still interested in exploring the environments of open-world blockbuster games. To some people, exploration of the 3D space is enough of a reward in itself to give a video game value, especially if it’s laced with research and artistic inspiration. Indie games like No Man’s Sky and Firewatch already have “exploration” modes, but it would be much more beneficial if big-budget games like The Witcher 3 and Horizon: Zero Dawn had modes to just let people freely explore their  beautiful worlds with no worries at all. It’s not even about beating the game at this point, but more about offering a separate tool for users. What if such modes were filled with developer commentary?

One of my favorite games, which I’ve written about multiple times, is Space Engine, in which you do nothing but move a camera around to look at planets. I think the game is a great tool for illustrating the scale of outer space and learning a little bit about astronomy. What if Elite Dangerous however used its higher production values (and availability of a console version) to provide a mode that basically turns its procedurally generated galaxy into some kind of edutainment “cosmos mode”? The game already has an exploration development path, but it would be neat to have an entirely separate mode without obstacles, perhaps with some voiced commentary from astronomers.

I even think Dark Souls should have a mode like this. Not an actual easy mode, just a sort of tool for people who want to appreciate the art the game is known so well for. I’m not a developer though, I don’t know how expensive it would be to implement such things. It certainly makes sense for Creed because Ubisoft already puts so much effort into historical research for those games.

Maybe Ubisoft should maximize that investment by advertising Origins to audiences outside the typical Creed customer. What if it for instance, sold the game with this mode to schools and museums? What if this mode was sold as a separate game (or educational tool, if you will) at a lower price for markets interested in it?

Really, ideas like this scratch the surface of the concept of “video games” for things other than play. That’s a much easier idea to accept on PC than on consoles, but I think it’s valid nonetheless. The Discovery Tour in Origins, compared to some digital encyclopedia, will have the advantage of more easily being displayed on a 4K TV for groups of people to gather around, rather than a computer monitor or something.

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